There’s no doubt that the Alabama Gulf Shores is a show-stealer when it comes to beaches. The pristine white sands, family-friendly atmosphere, wildlife, and nearly perfect weather most months of the year make it a top beach destination in the United States. While it often competes with neighboring beaches of Florida, Alabama can hold its own with vacationers looking for quality sand and surf.
Alabama beaches are famous for what the locals describe as “sugar-white” sands. The tiny granules that massage your toes as you stroll the shore are as comfortable for walking as they are for dozing off in the sun on your beach towel. The southern waters are great for swimming, but the beach attraction here extends to all forms of water sports, from surfing and parasailing to diving and Jet Ski dolphin tours. There is no shortage of beautiful resorts in Alabama, so you can extend your beach vacation with a golf or spa excursion when you want a little time out of the sun. Before you plan your sand-and-sea vacation, check out our list of the best beaches in Alabama.
1. Gulf Shores Main Public Beach
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach | Photo Copyright: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
The main public beach in the Gulf Shores is favored by tourists and locals because of its easy access to the water and bustle of seaside activity. Walk the soft sand at sunrise to catch fisherman and the local wildlife enjoying the changing tide before the sun worshipers head out for the day. The beach has undergone a major renovation project to offer more access points, walking paths, green space, wheelchair accessible mats, restrooms, and an amphitheater. The beach is clean and it’s the meeting point for many water excursions in the area, like Jet Ski dolphin tours. Be sure to take a stroll on the public pier and watch the pelicans challenge the local fishermen for their catch. If you want to feel the comforts of home after a long day at the beach versus staying in a hotel, you can book one of the condo rentals in the area, like the Phoenix All-Suites Hotel West, which keeps you close to the beach and conveniently located to local restaurants and activities.
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2. Alabama Point Beach
The Alabama Point Beach, located in Orange Beach, has more than a mile of white-sand beach access and is near the Gulf State Park. Since the beach is located near the Perdido Pass Bridge, you have front row views of boat traffic passing through the Perdido Pass, which is a bonus for photographers. The beach has picnic areas, a boardwalk, restrooms, and showers. Alabama Point is usually not crowded, and the water has mild waves, so it is ideal for families and kids. For an added treat, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins that sometimes swim through the area.
3. Fort Morgan Public Beach
Fort Morgan Public Beach
Fort Morgan Public Beach
One of the most unique beaches in Alabama is the small, quaint peninsula of Fort Morgan. The beach surrounds the historic fort, which was an active military site during several wars, including the Civil War. The fort is surrounded by water on three sides and worth a visit for a small entrance fee if you need a break from the sun. The quiet beach is a nice alternative to some of the more populated public beaches and is located less than an hour from the Gulf Shores. Much of the area is part of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, so you will likely spot many species of birds and other animals. You can stay at a furnished condo and beach house rental like the Gulf Shores Plantation for easy beach access, or you can just visit for the day using two public beach access points.
If you are looking for fewer crowds but the Gulf Shores beach experience, West Beach is where you want to set your flip flops and towel. The area has many colorful beach houses to admire or rent. There are also plenty of restaurants to enjoy lunch by the water or a romantic sunset dinner. The beach reaches into Mobile Bay and has a number of nearby attractions, including the Gulf State Park and Waterville USA waterpark. The closest lodging options for West Beach are private vacation homes, or you can stay in one of the resorts along the Gulf Shores and drive to West Beach for the day.
If you are looking for an active beach scene and more things to do besides laying surfside, Fairhope Beach needs to be on your itinerary. The minimal waves make it a casual place to swim, and the relaxing atmosphere makes it a favorite spot for picnics. The park near the beach has an entrance fee, but it is well worth it to enjoy the restaurants, shops, gardens, and the Fairhope Pier. There are many walking paths near the bay and small boutiques to visit in the downtown area. Be sure to enjoy lunch or dinner at Wintzell’s seafood restaurant, a local culinary institution. For the ultimate getaway to Fairhope Beach, try the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear, known for its stunning views, rich history in the area, and luxury accommodations.
Romar Beach is an iconic beach scene by day with sandcastles, kites, volleyball, and one of the best locations to observe the stunning Gulf Shores sunsets. Romar Beach has easy access and is a perfect location if you are just looking for a post-dinner beach stroll or an afternoon picnic by the water. The beach is small, but that is why many people like it. If you visit, be aware that parking is limited, so it is best to visit this beach if you are staying in a nearby condominium like the Phoenix V, one of several condominiums run by the same company, which offers a wide range of accommodations based on the size of your group.
The Cotton Bayou Beach is a small stretch of beach nestled between two boardwalks, two highways, and condominiums. This hidden retreat has the same pure-white sand as other Orange Beach waterfront locations but it is not as busy as some public beaches. There are outdoor recreation opportunities and plenty of nearby restaurants for a beach snack. This beach is convenient for its access to free parking, restrooms, and showers on-site. You can enjoy the pulse of Orange Beach and nearby amenities by staying at The Tides Hotel (Best Western Premier) and also have easy access to Cotton Bayou Beach.
8. Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island Pier
Dauphin Island Pier
The public beach on Dauphin Island is worth the getaway from the popular beach scenes in the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores areas. The island is 14 miles long, with long stretches of sand and ocean surf. The beach is pet-friendly and safe for families. If you want to add in some education with your swim, you can take a peek at the 19th-century Fort Gaines located on the island, which still features original cannons. You can reach Dauphin Island by ferry from the Gulf Shores or by car driving south from Mobile and accessing the island bridge. Your best bet for lodging is to stay in Mobile.
One of the best-known secrets of the Orange Beach area is Robinson Island, which attracts both swimmers and boaters. The island is a small piece of paradise tucked away in the back bays and is only accessible by boat. The scenery is picturesque, and the city is protecting the natural flora and fauna around the water. There are some restrictions for visitors, like no pets, and bird nesting sites on the island are protected. The Caribe Resort is a favorite, especially for vacationing families for its convenient location to the beach, on-site pools and lazy river, marina, fishing docks, and restaurants.